Winter Weather Warnings: What to Know to Stay Prepared

The East Coast has already seen powerful storms this winter, causing flooding, wind damage, and dangerously icy conditions. During a storm seasons such as this one, FEMA pre-stages emergency stations with supplies all across the United States to ensure they can be where they are most needed during a state of emergency, remains ready to support residents through the extreme winter weather, and urges residents to stay updated on the weather condition and prepare themselves as thoroughly as possible.

Insurance agents and residents alike should keep themselves knowledgeable and updated on current winter weather activity through the National Weather Service. Aside from helping residents stay prepared for all weather possibilities, it offers insurance agents critical insight on why certain types of insurance coverage are critical and ensure their clients are protected from any situation that might arise.

Some important terms to watch for and get familiar with are as follows:

Winter Storm Watch:

This type of alert is issued by the National Weather Service when there is a potential for heavy snow or significant ice accumulations. The watch is usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the storm’s arrival in the area. This is the time when residents will be in preparation mode and is an opportune time to check in and ensure their insurance coverage will protect from all possible occurrences.

Winter Storm Warning:

As the weather event becomes imminent, the watch will typically be upgraded to a warning. This means that the storm has an 80% or greater chance of occurring and indicates that the conditions can pose a threat to life or property, and that travel will become difficult to impossible. Usually, residents will be advised to shelter in place for safety.

Winter Weather Advisory:

This is an alert issued by the National Weather Service when a low-pressure system produces a combination of winter weather such as snow, freezing rain or sleet, which presents a hazard to residents but does not quite meet the warning criteria. Residents are advised to reduce their traveling during an advisory.

Blizzard Warning:

A Blizzard Warning is issued when sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 mph greater; reduced visibility of ¼ mile or less; and heavy snow for a period of three hours or more are occurring or expected occur in the next 12 to 18 hours.

Ice Storm Warning:

This weather alert means that freezing rain is producing a significant and possibly damaging accumulation of ice, usually ¼ inch or more.


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